I'm leaving tonight's debate live chat early to make it down to my church's evening Ash Wednesday service where the pastor will remind all in attendance that "for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" as we receive the ashes. The Ash Wednesday service is one of the most meaningful of the entire church calendar for me because I, despite a great hope in eternity, continually struggle with the acceptance of death.
A passage in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's 1993 speech "We have ceased to see the purpose" (of which we discussed a portion here) captured my attention recently, and I think it aptly speaks to why our culture is so uncomfortable with death.
And nothing so bespeaks the current helplessness of our spirit, our intellectual disarray, as the loss of a clear and calm attitude towards death. The greater his well-being, the deeper the chilling fear of death cuts into the soul of modern man. This mass fear, a fear the ancients did not know, was born of our insatiable, loud, and bustling life. Man has lost the sense of himself as a limited point in the universe, albeit one possessed of free will. He began to deem himself the center of his surroundings, adapting not himself to the world but the world to himself. And then, of course, the thought of death becomes unbearable: it is the extinction of the entire universe at a stroke.
Having refused to recognize the unchanging Higher Power above us, we have filled that space with personal imperatives, and suddenly life has become a harrowing prospect indeed.